The many times I’ve been visiting the Stedelijk I always end up at the same part of the permanent exhibition. The Memphis group’s furniture and lamps. The reason for my interest is not the actual artwork but rather a particular colorway.
A couple of years ago I was in Berlin on the hunt for some new sneakers. I found myself caught in-between big names such as Adidas and Nike.
What I would like to answer with this essay is if Memphis group this day managed tipped the scales in favour for Adidas (ZX9000 Memphis Group) just as a matter of style? Or was it actually the essence of capitalism in the shape of a surface.
Is the shoe an imitation of an artwork or actually one by itself? If you plaster a stone with a Picasso painting is it then not still a Picasso painting?
This depends on your point of view, what did you lay your eyes on first? When I found interest in the shoe covered in the Memphis surface we have to keep two aspects in mind. First: I did not know that Memphis group was behind the design. Second: I did not know what Memphis group existed. All I had in my mind was a wildly designed Adidas shoe that was like something I had never seen before.
I brought my piece of Memphis covered Adidas mock-ups back home with me. I like to view them as a piece of art, hence I have not been wearing them until this day. They are still in the same shoe box I bought them in, resting in the archive of my parents basement to be looked at but never worn.
I like to own a piece of design from Memphis group design studio. A piece of design from Memphis group is a shoe A shoe is a piece of art from Memphis group I would not step on an artwork from Memphis group.
From a conventional viewpoint programming is a process of command execution that brings about a certain result; a problem-solving tool to produce a desired outcome. Aside from its practical usage, coding is expanding to a different sphere of interpretation where new meanings gained, outgrow its primary function.
My essay examines the role of non-function oriented programming, the artistic value of the concepts behind works of code and experimental programming languages. An overview of examples from Algorithmic Auction to ‘Esolangs’ — Esoteric Programming Languages is questioning the boundaries between programming and artistic practice and exploring the creative potential of such method.
A work of code can acquire different forms and exist as an object, text or music piece gaining new definitions and material qualities.
Likewise conceptual programming languages can be perceived and interpreted by their instructions alone, without executing a command or using a computer. Designed for experience of thinking through them, esolangs unfold the confrontation of computer logic and human thinking in the most rational or the most absurd processes [x].
Sound file: castleman_css_descramble
[click on image] to download thesis by Medeina Musteikyte
In ‘Dream Out Loud’ in Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Bart Hess exhibited a range of wax molds, looking like dresses, that were made around a female model titled ‘Digital Artifacts’. His concept being that everyone can print their own reusable ‘second skin’, a garment fitted exactly to an individual body. If everyone would be able to print their own so called ‘personal uniform’ (a set of clothing that is to be worn daily) it would result in a decrease of the production process of garments in countries like China and Bangladesh, “saving” the people involved from their horrible working conditions. The problem here is that, for one, not many people own a 3D printer and that, in this time of resource scarceness, virgin material would still need to be used (for the making of 3D printers and for new printing material).
For an interview with Bart Hess about other works click here.
‘Digital Artifacts’ by Bart Hess for the ‘Dream Out Loud’ exhibition in het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Although Bart Hess’ idea of the personal uniform is durable, the (re)printing of it is not. As a more eco-friendly alternative, new developments are arising in the world of textiles; bacterial fabric, which enables us to grow clothing from bacteria and fungi. Another name for it, founded by Sacha Laurin, is ‘Kombucha Couture‘, referring to the Kombucha fermented green tea that is used in the process. Kombucha mixed with sugar and SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast), left inside a container in a warm, dark room will feed the yeast and bacteria. This can be done by anyone from home (see the previous link). These will grow threads of cellulose, which will layer and eventually form a watery consistency which then needs to be dried out. What is left in the end is a fabric like structure and that can be sown into garments and jewellery. As shown below Sacha Laurin has mastered the element, making beautifully coloured, natural and durable garments.
For more information on biomaterial and a done home experiment see Jana’s blogpost titled Material Alchemy.
Pieces of ‘Kombucha Couture’ by Sacha Laurin.
Suzanne Lee of BioCouture is another fashion designer who is working with bacterial fabrics. In various TED-talks she she explains her process and further developments she has made regarding the colouring of the fabric. She for instance found out that due to the matter’s high level of water absorbancy the bacterial fabric does not need more than one dip in indigo to make it blue, whereas cotton needs several, making it much more durable. It can also be coloured with natural materials such fruit and vegetable pulp, turmeric and others like metal (which will turn it black). Another thing is that if the fabric is placed around an object or body while it is still wet it will dry conform to the corresponding forms and shapes, creating a second skin.
Left: Growth of cellulose with Kombucha.
Right: Wet Kombucha cellulose left to dry.
Left: Suzanne Lee draping the wet Kombucha cellulose onto a mannequin.
Right: The dried garment made out of bacterial cellulose.
Biker jacket made out of Kombucha fabric and iron nails, which turns the material black naturally.
Another way of using microbes to create fabric-like materials is the process of fermentation. This process is found in the making of wine and beer and it can be used to make biofabrics by letting the microbes grow a layer of cellulose on top of the wine or beer. This is part of the research that is being done for the ‘Bioalloy‘ project by of the University of Western Australia since 2005 until today.
Fermented dresses made out of beer (left); “The Beer Dress”, and wine (middle and right); “Micro’be“ by Donna Franklin and Gary Cass for Bioalloy.
The problem Bart Hess encountered in his search for a second skin can be solved with bio fabric. His problem being that none of the materials he tried (such as wax, latex and foam) would let the skin breathe enough for it to be bearable to wear for a long time. Coming from a breathing organism itself the bacterial fabric will let the skin breathe and will act in a more similar way than plastics and other synthetic materials will. This fact brings it closer to being a second skin. Besides, everyone growing their own clothes would be much more environmentally friendly than everyone printing their own clothes, which would mean that everyone would have to own a 3D printer. Firstly, because bacterial fabric is biodegradable waste material made by bacteria/fungi whereas plastics are not biodegradable. Secondly, because the 3D-printing would require the use of new materials and electricity, which bacterial fabric does not necessarily.
However, a big problem with bacterial fabric is that it is highly water absorbent. Once it comes in contact with rain or sweat the fabric will start to swell, making it unpleasantly slimy to carry on your body. More and more research is being done on the front of bacterial/fungal fabrics, by Stichting Mediamatic in Amsterdam for example (you can read their articles on fermented fashion and bio-couture). They have an aim to find consistencies that would be usable as textiles for fashion, it should not be too difficult or time-consuming to find a way to make bacterial fabric water resistant and/or repellent. All the research being done also means that the concept of everyone growing their own clothes is realizable in the not so distant future.
Patterns made out of Kombucha fabric.
A different development by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is the adaption of a Japanese cooking bacteria, the so called Baccilus Subtilis, to react in size to moisture and humidity levels. When they are sown into garments and strategically placed on the body in flaps they will open and close depending on the heat and amount of sweat the body radiates, allowing the skin to ventilate. This development comes one step closer to finding the second skin (and the personal uniform) that Bart Hess is looking for. It could provide us all with a personal uniform, starting a movement of slow fashion and fighting crises such as overproduction, environmental waste and resource scarceness.
The bacterial flaps by MIT sown into a garment.
So, in conclusion, I will state that bio fashion, more specifically; bacterial fashion, is the future of all fashion. The production level of garments is higher than ever due to the speed in which trends nowadays come and go. At the same time, the earth’s resources are being drained and it’s surfaces polluted, human population is rising and life expectancy is increasing. As you can hopefully see, this is not a durable combination and something has to change in the way we produce and consume. Thus, we have to slow down the unsustainable rhythm of fast fashion that we are in and we can do that with the help of microorganisms, now.
Living in a time where we turn our resources into waste in high speed makes me very much wonder about the time where our planet’s virgin materials will be depleted. Our constantly growing world population leads to a growing demand for materials. Since materials are fundamental to everything we engage with, new ways of manufacturing them are needed.
Is there a way to turn all our waste back into resources?
Diving back into the mystical secrets of twelfth-century Alchemy led the Amsterdam based designer duo Studio Drift to a way of transforming our chemical waste into something new. By processing initially considered intractable chemical residual material, Studio Drift explores an entirely new way of gaining a material resembling to the volcanic glass Obsidian [x].
After a particular heating process, the glowing mixture can be poured into molds and the obtained outcome is a material with its very own unique characteristics. It sounds like metal, looks like glass and is heavy as a stone.
When I look in the polished black surface of this synthetic obsidian, my own effigy gets reflected by the waste.
But do we even need all those resources to produce materials we can only hardly recycle later?
While many designers are intently trying to close the cycle of production and recycling to support a circular economy, alternative ways of producing material without any need of resources are considered.
The current generation of designers, alchemists and scientists are crossing the boundaries to explore the unexplored and reshape the future by growing living organisms as materials.
Dealing with a lot of various materials in my every-days study awakes huge interest in the process of replacing toxic materials with long-term, sustainable material solutions.
Following the steps of designers and scientists I started to research about approaching materials in unconventional ways. With the advancements of synthetic biology a palette of futuristic ways to grow material by itself are evolved.
To gain a better understanding of the process and potential of these materials, I started a project of exploring one of those self growing organisms myself.
Inspired and fascinated by bio-materials that grow by themselves I decided to explore Mycelium, a material grown out of convenient Mushrooms such as Fungi.
A small research led me to Mediamatic, where I met Wouter Hass, the expert mycologist and owner of the Amsterdam-based Mycophilia. With a lot of enthusiasm he gave me a closer insight in his work. In a mostly self-built laboratory he searches for the unexplored potential of Fungi. Not only as regards taste he admires the mushroom, he also grows big blocks of Bio-Material out of it, which can be used as isolation and packaging material and later be composted.
After our interesting conversation about the whole process, I could not wait to gave it a try myself. Following Wouters instructions, I sterilized straw by cooking and cultivated it with Fungi spores. Stored in a plastic bag in the dark, fruiting bodies constructed by white fungal network with reproductive structures are growing. These structures are called Mycelium. In the woods these strains transfer the nutrients, as well as they detoxificate dead plants.
After a few weeks it grew to a block which I now separated in pieces. These pieces I placed together with jute in a mold, made out of two buckets. Humidified and covered by a foil it is stored in the dark of my closet again. If everything works out well, the pieces will soon grow together and overgrow the jute.
After a process of fully drying the Bio-Material the potential of this organism seems to be endless. The Outcome is a light but strong material. Alternatively to letting Mycelium grow into its supposed shape, it can even be 3D printed. Its developments can be found in fields like fashion, design and architecture. It is used in form of a leather-like textile, furniture, packaging as well as construction material and many more as I saw at Dutch Design Week 2016. [x]
By further developments of Mycelium, many ecologically harmful materials could probably be replaced by a fully compostable product that merges science and nature.
Another ongoing personal research of growing materials is about bacteria. By culturing the bacteria of Kombucha in sugared tea, a healthy drink is made.Further than that it grows a slightly transparent surface. As soon as this surface reaches the desired thickness, it can be removed and dried to a skin-like material. An inspiring conversation at the pop up Pet-Shop [x] from Waag society made me curious to give it a try myself.
Fashion designers such as Suzanne Lee [x] and Sacha Laurin [x] are important pioneers in growing clothes from bacteria. A closer look into the usage of grown textile is given in the very interesting blogpost ‘Bio Fashion Future Fashion‘ by Alba. Considering one kilogram of cotton requires 23.000 l water and mostly grows in developing countries, Kombucha couture seems like a fundamental step into a more economical future to me.
The palette of possibilities of synthetic materials gained without using the world’s last resources is literally growing in many directions. Other impressive designers such as Laura Lynn Jansen & Thomas Vailly even found a way of growing Stoneware which can be seen here.
I consider those developments of biologically grown material as a good start to solve one of our biggest global issues and I am very curious about the first outcome of my own try outs which i want to keep updated here. Meanwhile Deezen has some really nice articles to read more about synthetic material.
Some works initially aim to touch your feelings and to change your carefully complied seeing of life. They can cause a whole pattern of various emotions from the complete abhorrence to inexpressible delight. I walked through the halls of the “Dream out Load” exhibition and noticed a small group of people gathered around something that seemed to be very interesting. “That’s gross!” – Somebody exclaimed but continued starring at the subject of interest. I love gross and in a second I found myself looking at the “Circumventive organs” by Agi Haines and a short footage about implanting the organs inside the artificial (I hope so?) human body. From that moment I would start calling her “a mad scientist” of the design. What she designs is not posters, not buildings and even not that fancy clothing you are wearing. The subject of her focus is mainly a human body and organs.
Electrostabilis Cardium by Agi Haines on vimeo
With the introduction of bioprinting the possibility of new organs is becoming a reality. The ability to replicate and print cells in complex structures could mean different cells with various functions could be put together in new ways to create new organs we would take millions of years to evolve naturally. Frankenstein-esque hybrid organs could then be put together using cells from different body parts or even different species.
This short film envisions the surgical procedure designed for the fitting of Electrostabilis Cardium, a defibrillating organ using parts from an electric eel that can discharge to release an electric current to the heart when it recognizes it going into fibrillation (heart attack).
Alongside the film are other ‘Circumventive Organ’ designs including Tremomucosa Expulsum an organ that uses rattlesnake muscles to release mucus from the respiratory system of a person who suffers from cystic fibrosis and dispel it through the stomach, as well as Cerebrothrombal Dilutus which contains cells from the salivary gland of a leech and releases an anticoagulant when it feels the pressure of a potential blood clot in the brain as a way of avoiding a stroke.
Agi Haines’ mind-bending, hyper-real sculptures function in an epistemological limbo, existing somewhere between art & science, technology and ethics, and present and future. Haines creates pieces that are uncanny, transgressive, and sometimes conflicting, stunning in their insight and repulsive in their execution. Her near-future world is one in which rattlesnake muscles can be 3D-printed, inserted into the human body and used to combat cystic fibrosis.
I chose Agi’s work as a main topic of my research because bioprinting and bioart is something that intrigues me a lot. Though I was never familiar with bioprinting, I was always interested in this incredible and magical world of the body and it’s insides, how it lives, transformes, reacts and evolves. I am fascinated by the possibilities of 3D bioprinting and how it can affect the evolution process. My belief is that the future of design lays in more extensive work with human body as a material and If I will be given a chance to take part in the process of organ designing, I would be glad to create something useless and provocative. In the interview Agi explains how the organ printing works: living cells mixed into cell-friendly material, such as collagen, that will make a scaffolding for cells to grow on. Then the organ is being printed layer by layer, just the same as an ordinary 3D printer works.
The ability to replicate and print cells in complex structures could mean different cells with various functions could be put together in new ways to create new organs we would take millions of years to evolve naturally. Haines envisions what it would be like to not only replicate existing human organs, but also produce newly designed, improved organs for implantation as (curative) therapy for chronic diseases and defects. In the same way, animal cells with useful properties might even be employed to create organs with entirely new properties. An organ that incorporates eel cells could conceivably function as a natural defibrillator, delivering a resuscitating electric shock in case of cardiac arrest.
If you prick us do we not bleed" work by Agi Haines
… can we consider bioprinting as an art form?
I keep on asking myself this question, because the border between biology, genetic engineering and art rapidly disappears, or, more likely, has already disappeared. Tissues, organisms, organs and bacteria became a media to create works of art. They have been used in the same way as one artist would use the paintbrushes or the materials from the Rieveld’s trashcans.
Even before the bioprinting, American artist Eduardo Kac established the name “Bioart” for his works. Kac considers himself a “transgenic artist,” or “bio artist,” using biotechnology and genetics to create provocative works that concomitantly explore scientific techniques and critique them. In 1998 he comes up with his work “Genesis” that explores the intricate relationship between biology, belief systems, information technology, dialogical interaction, ethics, and the Internet. The key element of the work is an “artist’s gene”, i.e., a synthetic gene that he invented and that does not exist in nature.
"Genesis" by Eduardo Kac
Another project of Eduardo Kac was famous glowing rabbit called Alba. By injection of green fluorescent protein (GFP) of a Pacific Northwest jellyfish into the fertilized egg of an albino rabbit he creates the bunny that can glow green when illuminated with the correct light.
“GFP Bunny” has raised many ethical questions and sparked an international controversy about whether Alba should be considered art at all. “Transgenic art brings out a debate on important social issues surrounding genetics that are affecting and will affect everyone’s lives decades to come,” Kac is quoted as saying.
'Alba' glowing in the dark bunny, by Eduardo Kac
Faced with some operations our aesthetic but also ethics sense is often put in a critical position. We are forced to redefine the border between animate and inanimate world and our definitions of subject and object. Indeed, when the symbolic and material boundaries of humans opened to technology, some considered it as hospitable, however many found it offensive or even dangerous. One of the main concerns about bioart is that people view it as an unnecessary use of living organisms. While the use of living organisms is often tolerated because they are used for research and thus improving the quality of peoples’ lives, bioart is often criticized as an uncalled-for practice because of the role of aesthetics in the artworks. In addition, bioart creates uncertainties among the public because bioart projects such as eugenics are undertaken by artists and not researchers. Nevertheless it is important to bear in mind that (bio)artists also need to do research prior to conducting their experiment or artwork.
Coming back to bioprinting as an art form, I would also like to mention the Dutch artist Diemut Strebe and her 3D printed Van Gogh’s ear. She created the replica ear using living cells from van Gogh’s great-great-grandson. The ear itself is made from actual living tissue and was 3D printed into a shape resembling van Gogh’s left ear. The ear is currently being displayed in a German museum and is suspended in a clear display case full of a nourishing liquid that is expected to keep it viable for many years. The artist has also added a microphone to her installation so you can actually speak to the replica of Vincent van Gogh’s severed ear [x].
"Sugababe" by Diemut Strebe • "Body Modification for Love" by Michiko Nitta
Another artist, who is trying to make our life more interesting, bypassing the ethic issue, is Michiko Nitta and one of her works - Body Modification for Love. It is an idea which could be developed in the future – a technique for genetically growing selected parts of another person on another person’s skin. What Nitta is proposing is for example a nipple of ex-girlfriend or a mole of ex-boyfriend. Patch of living hair would be also possible to grow on somebody’s else arm. It is supposed to be a new form of tattoo as Nitta says. Parents are always upset when their kid makes his first tatoo. How upset they are going to be now, when their beloved one would come up with a nipples on his forearm?
The options are endless and there are a lot more projects, researches and artists I could also mentioned here. There are a lot of things to discover yet and who knows – maybe in the nearest future our bodies would be modified and consist of artificial organs? Not the best scenario, to be honest..
This research project is based on the "Dreaming Out Load" design exhibition curated by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
We humans have created technologies and machines to enhance our lives, we invented cars to liberate ourselves, built all kinds of factories to raise efficiency, but now these innovations are striking back, making the environment extremely polluted in high-density cities; some visible, while others may be invisible, but still left the real impact on our daily life and health. Think about donating 50 euro to get a Smog Free Ring[x], which contains smog filtered from 1000 m3 of air, in order to support the Smog Free Tower and Smog Free Project by Studio Roosegaarde.
Will this make a real contribution to solve the problem of pollution? By purchasing a Smog Free Cube, Ring, or Cufflink, are you purchasing a souvenir, a design or are you building your association with the Smog Free Project, the anti pollution movement?
Daan Roosegaard’s Smog Free Ring • Smog filter in Bejing
Our technical interaction with artworks has only developed within the last decade at the level of using touch screen to improve the understanding of drawings, but now in the art and design world, both these two elements have been introduced to the real application domain.
Daan Roosegaard’s public interactive landscape Dune (2006-2012) • John Constable: The Great Landscapes” 2006
To gain a better understanding of this change, we can look at Daan Roosegaard’s public interactive landscape Dune[x] (2006-2012) which interacts with human behavior, and the Tate Britain exhibition “John Constable: The Great Landscapes[x]” in 2006. The Great Landscape used X-Ray examination and Drawing screen to help the visitors to obtain an understanding of Constable’s working practice and techniques through body movements in front of the X-Ray projection and figure movements on the touch screen (Engaging Constable: Revealing Art with New Technology), while Dune served itself, stood for a hybrid of nature and technology, artwork and the way to present the artwork. It is composed of large amounts of fibers that brighten and made sounds according to the sound and motions of visitors. Both enhanced social interactions with the help of sense-based technologies and being recorded with cameras and microphones in order to study and analyze people’s interactions, Dune and The Great Landscape had quite different starting points.
The visual impact of the eyes decrease as the other senses are heightened due to the introduction of tactility and sound, thus the aesthetic value is no longer of primary importance and the design opens up a broader spectrum of uses and practicality. This also explains Daan Roosegaard’s later works, how he uses modern technology to deal with multiple subjects; such as the relationship between intimacy and body (high-tech fashion project Intimacy[x], 2010), the historical heritage and sustainable idea (Van Gogh Path[x] [x], 2014), the power and poetry of living with water in Netherlands (Waterlicht[x], 2015 and Icoon Afsuiltdijk[x]).
The modern presentations of art and design in museums and galleries provide personal and collaborative experiences as The Great Landscape did, but Roosegaarde’s tactile high-tech environments enable the viewer and space to become one, not only because it can encourage more people to interact with each other and the environment simultaneously, but also because the technology leads the viewers to become both users and performers, thus the art raises people’s awareness of public issues.
Concerning its unique background associated with environment protection and sustainable development, the Smog Free Ring distances itself completely from traditional souvenirs in a museum and the association created by purchasing it, just as putting yourself in the Dune and reacting with it stands apart from the traditional way to appreciate an artwork. But is this different to other design works which also aim to serve a better life?
As science and technology are an essential part of his work, I want to introduce the Three Cycle Review of Design Science Research from Alan R.Hevner’s ”A Three Cycle View of Design Science Research”.
Design Science Research is motivated by the desire to improve the environment by introducing new and innovative artifacts and processes. The Three Cycle Review of Design Science Research consists of Relevance Cycle, Design Cycle and Rigor Cycle. Good Design Science Research often starts by identifying problems in an actual application environment or recognizing the potential to improve a practice before a new problem occurs. When applied to the Smog Free Tower, people’s neglect towards air pollution interested Daan to think about building the largest purifier in order to solve the problem. In the Relevance Cycle, the air-polluted environment is not only where the problem is found, but also a testing field in order to see if the design results meet the criteria. Then, they moved to Rigor Cycle and the knowledge base and found the existing air purification technology which is used in the hospital. Following the search for technology, they moved to the internal Design Cycle, and built the Smog Free Tower based on the original issue found in the environment and the technology found in the knowledge base. While the artifact is being built, field testings are input from the relevance Cycle and the design and evaluation methods to Relevance Cycle and Rigor Cycle. After several rounds of improvement, The Smog Free Tower and The Smog Free Ring, which contained both technology and beauty were born.
To give a brief conclusion, pragmatic science, interaction between human, responsibility for the living environment and beauty are core components in Daan Roosegaard’s works and in the future world of art and design. But not only the world of art and design, or let’s say, since art and design has gradually found their new position in 21th Century, they will no long serve aesthetics as the core matter. Techno Beauty, as how Daan Roosegaard described his own works, may becomes a direction in design to beautify and save the world.
Most major cities in Japan were left in ruins after the second world war, in particular, Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In the post-atomic bomb area, Japan was democratized and turned into a nation with a pro-American orientation. As a response to the human and environmental catastrophe, and as with the growth of the Japanese economy in the early 1950s, proposals for urban redevelopment began to appear. This is when the first concrete example of urban planning with ideas that would later come to define the metabolism movement appeared. You can argue that it started with the designing of the reconstruction of Hiroshima. The Japanese architect Kenzo Tange and his team of architects was commissioned to make this plan.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum / Kenzo Tange. The initial plan was presented in 1949 and the building was made in 1955. source: "Hiroshima mon amour "
In the 50’s Kenzo Tange was very oriented towards the international architecture scene, note the resemblances between the memorial building and the work of Le Corbusier. He also met up with and found inspiration in an architect such as Aldo Van Eyck who was in many ways in opposition to the “functionalism” of Corbusier that was criticized of ignoring its inhabitants. Van Eyck created the orphanage next to our school, and took part in coining the architectural movement structuralism that Tange also defined himself within.
In short you can say that they shared some of the same ideas in creating spaces where the relationships between the elements are more important than the elements themselves – built structures corresponding to social structures. It wasn’t until 1960 that the movement was actually defined, by the architect Kiyonori Kikutake who created their first manifesto together with the architect Fumihiko Maki and Kisho Kurokawa: “Metabolism 1960 : The proposals for a new urbanism ”.
The name arrived to an other member of the movement, Kionory Kikutake, as he was working on a floating metropolis, his “Marine City” project.
The word “Metabolism” comes from Greek and translates to “change” but also refers to the life-sustaining transformations within the cells of living organisms. As the name might suggest? they pushed that buildings and cities should be designed in the same organic way that life grows and changes by repeating metabolism.
The “Marine City” is one of many projects that was never realized but played a central role in the works of the Metabolists. It was this vanguard idea of taking on new space whether it be the ocean or the sky that was the foundation of their way of shaping “the future”. At the same time it required developing and making use of new technology. None of the experiments and realizations were made by single individuals but drew on the big think-tank that the Metabolist movement was from artists and writers to scientists and industrial designers. The “marine city” was a proposal for a solution to the rapid population boom especially taking place in Tokyo in the years after the war till the brink of the 60s. Kikutake believed that the ocean was the only valid space to develop in times of an imbalance between population and agricultural productivity.
As such sustainability was surely an integral part of this movement as well as resilience considering how the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis make for tough conditions in japan – especially for urban concentrations. Structure wise the Metabolist movement was characterized by taking certain architectural steps towards recognizing this. A main idea was to design architecture to be built around “spine-like” infrastructure on and around which pre-fabricated replaceable parts could be attached being almost cell-like. At the heart of this setup is also reorganization of the relationship between society and the individual.
Another important inspirational source was found in old Japanese shinto religion and a specific Ise Grand Shrine that carries the ritual of being created anew every 20 years. This is an example of how the Metabolists as a movement was wearing multiple meanings, being both modernists and traditionalists at the same time.
Ise Shrine having been in continual existence since 690 C.E. source
The Metabolists respected environmentally-conscious boundaries and the material in which they worked. This gave them the pride, and also reluctance, to not be parted from their vision. To demonstrate and construct only that of ideas was monumental enough.
Festival Plaza / Kenzo Tange and the artist Taro Okamoto, Osaka Expo, 1970. source
After 10 years of development and growth within the Metabolist Movement, the structure that was metabolism came to a climax, exhibiting some of their finest work, at Expo 70’ in Osaka, Japan. It was around this time that Kisho Kurokawa’s project, The Nakagin Capsule Tower, began construction. A process that took only 30 days to complete.
This building would serve as an “icon” to the movement. After the Expo 70’ took place in Osaka, individual architects from the movement began to take a step forward personally, focusing more on individualism and self-driven growth. Ideas about sustainable development within the 21st century are not new ideas; they have spread through a continuous evolution. An end sometimes not only existing as an end, but that of a new beginning.
We are in the period after the second world war, everything is destroyed and has to be rebuilt. Constant had an utopian vision of how we could re invent our world, and for him it was a real possibility. We had to forget how we did thing in the past (traditions, routines, processes, plans…) and create a new world from dust, that he called « New Babylon ».
The people of the « New Babylon » world are called the « homo ludens ». He insisted on the importance of play. Something joyful, pleasant and adventurous in our daily lives. People could transform, recreate our environment according to their new needs. Everyone could use his creativity as he wished. Art would exist as part of our day-to-day existence, everyone would be an artist. He puts the human in the centre of everything. Mobility is another key dimension because it was getting easier to travel across the world. Constant saw the new babylonians as a new race of nomads with unlimited freedom to decide about the appearance of their surroundings.
I think this staircase is the perfect representation of Constant’s idea of « homo ludens ». The stair’s principal function is no more the useful part of it, to go up and down. The amusement of going up and down is what it is about. It isn’t the most practical staircase but when you go up or down, you have fun.
The opposite of this new concept of a « ludic society » is the society we are in now, a « utilitarian society ». A society based on the exploitation of the human being’s capacity for work in any kind of domain. « Utility » is the principal criteria of a man for his activity. The creative man can only claim his right on rare occasions.
The « ludic society » on the contrary is freed from repetitive production work. It would be a « classless society » with no more hierarchy. A society were individuals developed and discovered their own creativity with others. Constantly at play, an uninterrupted process of creation and re creation.
Equality and freedom between everyone is the principle of social justice. Freedom depends not only on the social structure but also on productivity. Supposing we are in a world where people create daily, if there is no production then this society doesn’t work. Productivity depends on technology. The new technologies we discover every year give us new ways of doing things, more possibilities, more freedom for the « homo ludens » to play with.
With theses new possibilities people innovate, make something new, re do, renew, rebuild, restore, transform, change… This is in effect the role of a designer but in this world there wouldn’t be any constraints.
These innovations can be used in all kinds of activities. For instance, Constant imagined that air conditioning in « New Babylon » does not only serve to recreate, as in a « utilitarian society » an « ideal » climate but also to make it possible to vary the ambiance to the greatest possible degree.
Technology and innovation enable creativity. For example, we can now bring to reality what was a simple 2D image on a computer. There are many kinds of innovations but I think that artificial intelligence (see also : 7 trends for artificial intelligence in 2016 ) is going to be the major innovation that will have an impact on our society and really affect our creativity in the future.
Imagine a world where « homo ludens » would be able to have artificial intelligence (AI) assistants. You could not really make the difference with a human. They would have all the data of the world in their system and would use « deep learning » .
« Deep learning » is different learning methods where the AI has advanced audio and visual analysis skills (facial recognition, voice recognition, computer vision…). They would be able to modify their attitude based on the past, they learn. If you are a bit curious about this subject I advise you to watch the tv series « Westworld ».
With all this data and advanced technology IA assistants could give to « homo ludens » a different perspective about their production and bring real technical and practical support instantly. It would be similar to the character « Jarvis » in Iron Man. What is interesting about this AI is that it is invisible.
Artificial intelligence and « homo ludens » could work well together but AI can be dangerous if it is not well controlled.
Why are things the way they are? That is a question I can never stop asking. Every day I find myself completely fascinated by things that other people seem to take for granted. I just cannot get used to the simple fact of existence.
One of my most recent questions: “Why do we always tune our instruments the same way?” This is the question that sparked a whole design research of which the outcome was to be a mathematical music instrument.
At the start of my research, I decided to visit my old piano teacher. I asked if he had some time to think with me on the subject of musical tuning. When I met up with him though, it was quite evident that he was not a music theoretician. He did encourage me to find out by myself, so I headed his advice and did a lot of research.
The science behind the instrument: Pythagorean music theory
When starting this project, I did not expect to develop such a great fascination for a man who has been dead for over 2500 years and would probably cringe at the mere thought of modern music. Pythagoras had some very interesting theories about harmony. He believed people could be healed spiritually by listening to harmonious tones. He developed a tuning system based on exact mathematical ratios to create perfect harmony. He used the most harmonious interval (3:2) the perfect fifth as his foundation.
Sound file: perfect fifth
By stacking fifths upon fifths he developed a 12 tone system. The framework of our modern 12 tone system called “equal temperament”.
The 12 different tones in an octave as shown on a piano keyboard.
Mathematically Pythagorean tuning is perfect. It describes the almost exponential nature of sound exactly. This way he could play the musical equivalent of the golden spiral. Pythagoras saw truth in these harmonies. It was his way of communicating with the heavens.
The most fundamental difference between Pythagorean temperament and equal temperament is the difference between a circle and a spiral.
Pythagorean tuning shows the golden spiral of fifths. Because the spiral of fifths is a spiral shaped system based on stacked fifths, the fifth intervals are in perfect unison, but the octaves are in dissonance.
Sound file: wolftone
This dissonance is also called a “wolf tone” because it resembles the howl of a wolf.
The wolf tone, is by no means the result of a faulty calculation. It does however create a problem for music playing. This problem is referred to as the Pythagorean comma. A quite ironic name seeing as Pythagoras did not believe in decimal numbers. The Pythagorean comma actually prevents you from playing more notes than the range of an octave because the 13th note will be slightly out of tune (though you could play perfect fifths into infinity). Pythagoras had a solution. He just did away with note 13 and upwards!
Equal temperament avoided the problem caused by the Pythagoras comma, by converting the spiral into a circle. The comma is still there, only spread out between all the notes. Everything sounds kind of okay, because everything is out of tune in the exact same way except for the perfect octaves (which you can play into infinity). Now we can play music in every key, but there is little harmony left.
Can the comma be solved? No. It cannot be solved because it is a fact of nature. Perfect octaves and perfect fifths cannot co-exist. No power of 3:2 can ever be a power of 2:1. Pythagorean tuning sought to find truth and equal temperament standardised it for the sake of convenience.
I found this very interesting, I wanted to hear the perfect fifths, so I gave myself the task to design an instrument based entirely on Pythagorean tuning. Not only would it have to be tuned in the right way, I also wanted the design to reflect the tuning, so I could understand it better.
Creating the instrument
First I had to calculate the notes Pythagoras did not care about (note 13 and upwards), so I could make an instrument with more than 12 notes. That way I would be able to hear the perfect natural disharmony Pythagoras shied away from.
Luckily someone I know had already done the dirty work for me:
Here is the chart I used to come up with the absolute frequencies of my instrument.
And here is the list of absolute frequencies:
It has 37 strings from C1 to C4 where A2= 432 Hz.
Sound file: Pythagorean tuning of my instrument and equal temperament
Sound file: dissonance between Pythagorean tuning equal temperament
I was struggling to think of a meaningful design for the instrument. Out of nowhere it hit me
I drew the distribution of the frequencies of my instrument in these graphs and I realized the shape of the graph would be the perfect shape. It visualizes the exact near exponential nature of the tuning system. I even decided to place the strings at their corresponding spatial position on the instrument. From down to up, the strings grow increasingly farther apart from each other.
Final design and model
Stages of building
The instrument is made from birch plywood. The inside is reinforced with massive wood to resist the tension of the strings.
Sound file: some sounds of the instrument (not tuned to pythagoras)
Math is nothing other than stating things as they are. I only realised this during my research. It is the very foundation whereon math is based. It is the thing whereon my instrument is based. It shows tuning systems as they are. It does not hide the perceived disharmony. Creating this instrument has truly showed me how bad our attempts are at grasping the nature of reality. We are trying to create harmony with notes that actually form dissonance. It’s complexly ridiculous.
As an art student I say I made an interesting discovery. As a musician I say I have created an incredibly ridiculous instrument and I am very happy with that.
A few of the words that were coming up in my mind when I saw and started to research this chair, so I thought this will be a perfect chair and designer to write about. To find out how deep this designer can go into material research, waste and renewable energy. Marjan Van Aubel is one of the designers who stimulates this.
Marjan van Aubel is a designer that makes everyday objects in new innovative ways. She is trying to make people aware of the fact that renewable energy is everywhere. Normally there will be a waste of 50/80% during normal manufacture. Van Aubel and James Shaw found a way how to use and incorporate that wastage during the manufacture.
When I saw “the well-proven chair” for the first time it looked like a normal chair because of the simple legs of the chair but when you see the back it becomes a object. For me it was hard to understand the material. I didn’t know where the chair was made of. The nice structure camouflages the fact that it is actually made out of shavings and sawdust.The sitting part is beautiful and smooth, making this chair nice to sit on and really nice to look at. It’s good that the legs are simple so the focus stays on the sit area. With her designs she try’s to combine design and technology. She strives for a more renewable life
For me this was a really interesting topic because i didn’t know a lot about this kind of experimenting with material. There are so designers working with this way of designing. They are busy with making new materials to make life more renewable. I think these new materials are needed because our resources are running out.
As an artist/designer Marjan van Aubel always was interested in how things are made, a reason why i feel related to her. I always want to figure out how ‘it’ is put together.
She was also intrigued by solar panels and why they are so ugly and why they can ruin the face of a building. Why are the panels not integrated in the tiles? I really agree with her. That is why she started at her collage time a research about energy. Now not only design was important also science. She graduated with “The Energy Collections” a set of solar glassware that discharges through a matching bookshelf, which serves as a rather large battery. This kind of thinking can make our life a lot more easy an conscious. Like I said we are running out of material so this kind of design thinking can improve this.
I have a lot of interest in nature. For me that makes her work really interesting, because she interacts nature with design. I have a few works i made a few years a go which are also related to this.
I investigated how nature and mathematics have a lot of comparisons. Like the golden ratio and Fibonacci. You can see it in a lot of plants, a lot of leaves grow in a spiral around the branch to get enough sunlight and rain. It is also in our human body. For me structure in nature is an important way for making a work. It is really nice that nature can help us to make products. I think it’s also good that new young designers/artists also use this opportunity to invent new products and make use of our nature. Like her latest project ”The Current Table‘ which was also able to generate energy. This project she made in response to “the energy collection”.
The market for these well made products is getting bigger and bigger. People are more concerned with a healthy and a conscious way of life and designers will react on that.
This movie from 2012 shows how a lot of designers are busy with the meaning of material.
It’s fascinates me a lot how this young designer are making al these new innovative products. I found a movie on this page and it shows how scientists are combining non-living chemicals to create materials with the properties of living organisms.
Now you can see how new materials, new invented but also already existing materials but used in an other way will blow your mind. For me their is still a lot to discover about al this material researches and the meaning of material. This research showed me a lot new ways of seeing waste and make new material with it. So we al can be more conscious and re-use waste to make something new.
«Innovation can’t be found in the drawing of an object but in the use that is made of technology, materials, techniques. Technology has no interest for its image, but it is interesting for the service it offers. Its image must disappear, melt into the object. Technology is at the service of the result : price, lightness, comfort…» Patrick Jouin
OneShot.MGX is a 3D-printed stool designed by the french designer Partick Jouin in 2004.This stool was manufactured using the 3D printing technique. Born in the mid 1980s, 3D printing, more formally known as additive manufacturing, was used at this time for visual prototyping. But some companies soon realized that the technology had the potential to do more than just producing prototypes. In 2003, .MGX by Materialise was founded and they invited world-class designers to experiment with this new technique and come up with novel products that were only possible with this new technology. Patrick Jouin was one of them and created on this occasion two chairs, a table and this stool.
I consider this item as one of the the most relevant among the Stedelijk’s design collection. Innovative, surprising, light, handy, delicate, subtile… it satisfies all the expectations that we have from a stool. You can take it anywhere easily, store it in a cupboard, in a car, in a bag. This object is in harmony with Patrick Jouin’s philosophy if we believe his words : «The objects we draw today are more discrete. They are more «affectuous». Discrete friends. They don’t tell less, they simply do it more slowly. It’s like homeopathy. They diffuse rather than they speak.» I discovered Patrick at the same time as his product during the exhibition and I think he has a clear mind about what is going on in design nowadays. He created his own agency in 1998 after some years at Philippe Strack’s agency. His style is often qualified as discrete.
Patrick Jouin is really interested in experimenting new technologies. In an interview about rapid prototyping, P.J. said «The distance in between the creation, the drawing, and the final object was very short. It was like a sketch which is coming alive and taking shape in 3D. I know that every time in the history of design, when there is a new technology, there is always a new aesthetic.»
«Industrial production requires a radical conversion : we must start from the function of the object and possibilities of the machine. The limited performance of the craft production allowed sometimes the realization of original or richly decorated forms. Production by the machine, in series, needs a simplification of manufacturing’s forms and processes.» Willem Sandberg wrote these words around 1970 in a catalogue about the german designer Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Should we consider this way of thinking as still relevant nowadays ? New technologies such as 3D printing make these ideas a bit old-fashioned. I am not saying that this aesthetic is over, but 3D printing doesn’t undergo the same rules as the more industrial technique. Patrick Jouin said : «There are so many aspects, undiscovered yet, it is a new way to think how an object can be made.»
In his book Fabricated : The New World of 3D Printing, Cornell University researcher Hod Lipson describes ten of the underlying principles fundamental to 3D printing. The first principle he notes is that «manufacturing complexity is free». Unlike traditional manufacturing processes, where extra complexity requires a more expensive mold with more parts, there is no penalty with 3D printing when an object is made more complex. On the contrary, in some cases there may even be a benefit. With 3D printing, designers and artists can explore new kinds of highly complex and intricate forms that would have been impossible to realize with traditional techniques, and these come at no extra cost. It is a proverbial candy store of new formal possibilities, resulting in a new design language that is baroque and often eclectic.
«Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to». It is true that there is a risk of overuse, a risk that it becomes too much. What should designers do now that complexity is not a problem anymore. Designers are still in the early stages of the search for aesthetic in 3D printing. Many of the experiment we see today may appear outdated in ten years, but they are playing an important role in paving the way. With an increasing number of designers, artists, and makers gaining access to 3D printing, a mature formal language will develop over time, uniting and exploiting the full potential of the technology’s aesthetic powers.
«…people often proclaims grand ideas, things that are just after all, the qualities expected about an object. What an object owes us.» Patrick Jouin
Many studios and companies are working on developing this technique. In Amsterdam, we have the 3D Print Canal House, the first 3D-printed house. It also acts as an exhibition and interactive research center for 3D-printed architecture and related areas, such as material recycling, policy making, and smart electricity grids. The 3D Print Canal House has been printed on-site with the KamerMaker, a shipping container that has been converted into a giant 3D printer.
An aspect of 3D printing that I find particularly interesting is the way you share a product. The designer creates a file that could basically be printed anywhere by any 3D printer (if the printer is able to do so), but then a question appears, how is he going to sell it ? In a shop as a finished object or on internet/in a shop as a file still ?
What will make him choose a certain option ? If you decide to sell for example your 3D printed vases in a shop, you will propose to the public a definite object, with definite colors, materials and price. These choices will be of course part of your research and of course as a designer you know better than anyone the nice colors, but you don’t give to the buyer many possibilities. Eventually you could print ten times the same vase with each time different materials and/or colors, but then you take the risk that some of them might not be successful. You might have eventually planned everything with a marketing analyze or something else, but I am sure that 3D printing could be exploited in a much better way. In this way, the 3D print is not highlighted.
Imagine that you sell the product on your website. The vase that you created has a definite shape, but no colors for the moment, it is still a neutral file, just a shape. Then you put it online and decide the price of it. You could also suggests some colors or materials, without saying that one is better than another. The customer will be free now to print the vase as he wants. There is no risk of overproduction in this case and there is also an attractive aspect for the customer. He might feel involved in the project and enjoy the fact of being part of the creative process. I talked about the price previously and I think this aspect is also interesting to discuss. How would you fix a price ? If the customer want to print it at home, you would sell a file only, so the customer will print and pay the material by himself. What is the value of it ? Is it in terms of technical innovation or complexity ? Or in terms of originality ? 3D printing could also lead to personal (home) creations and lead to the disappearance of designers. Of course, there will always be designers, but they could be at stake. For sure, this solution is possible only if a great number a person would have 3D printer at home, and it is still not the case, but it may happen soon. We can already see this kind of website where you have the possibility to create your own product.
I am also wondering about reproduction, re-appropriation and protection. How can you protect a product from reproduction or re-appropriation ? How could you recognize an original from the copie ? You could not.
The last possibility that I find personally the most interesting nowadays is to have your own 3D design/print shop. Imagine that you have your design studio that is at the same time a production place. You keep into the studio a selection of the products, accompanied by suggestions of colors and materials. Customers would come into the shop and ask for the vase 3D printed in red and blue plastic with maybe some adjustements. The nice thing is that you have then a real contact with the buyer, you can advice them, keep them informed and help them. You can imagine many things with 3D printing. It could provide a solution to over-production and consumption.
For example, companies could provide 3D files that allows you to print the piece of your machine that is broken instead of ordering it and get it from the other side of the world. You would just have to print it. For sure, the materials that you use to print will not come alone, but I think it could help. There are many other subjects to discuss, so if you are interested in 3D printing, you should have a look at this conference about the environmental impact of 3D printing that was given on December 13th 2013.
A lot of people are active in 3D printing research. This is the case of Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California which has been developing since 1998 a layered manufacturing process called Contour Crafting, in which cement or concrete is pumped through a nozzle connected to a computer-controlled crane or gantry. This draws the contours of the largescale structure to be built layer by layer.
3D printing with Lunar soil by Foster + Partners[x]
Enrico Dini also, a passionate Italian inventor, has teamed up with the European Space Agency and the architects Foster+Partners to test the feasibility of a 3D-printed permanent moon bases built out of moondust. Contour Crafting is also aiming for the moon in a partnership the NASA. Give the significant challenges of scaling up 3D printing machinery to encompass an entire building, many concluded that, for the time being, the most pragmatic approach is to fabricate constructions in sections and then to stack these sections on-site.
Finally, if you are interested, I link you to some studios who realized some really nice project with 3D printing technique. I hope you enjoyed this article.
Vaclav Cigler is a czech artist mostly known for his pioneering work in glass. Since the 1950s, Cigler has focused on glass sculpture and is still today considered as one of the preeminent artists working in glass. My interest in his work though did not develop from one of his glass sculptures but from an image of a mannequin head wearing a mysterious head jewelry exhibited in Stedelijk Museum.
The jewelry consists of two galvanised brass circles put together, one that is fitting the circumference of the head and one attached to the other and placed in front of the face. The placing of the circle in front of the face affects the vision of the person wearing the jewelry. It becomes a frame through which the person watch the surroundings and in that way it changes and disturbs the perception. Furthermore the circled brass acts like mirrors: when angled, it gives the wearer a view of the room or of the people around which allows the possibility of intimate eye contact or covert observation. Imagining a lot of people walking around with this jewelry in the context of today it easily could be considered as some sort of electronic device attached to the head with a chip improving human possibilities. Or it could be a future, simplified version of virtual reality glasses having an invisible screen circled around the head. Especially the aspect of the mirror in the circle makes it relatable to virtual reality where the people around and the room then adapts into the screen of the virtual reality so it becomes this interaction between physical- and virtual reality.
When looking through some of Cigler’s work in glass it becomes clear that he is very interested in the human perception. That is also one of the reasons for his consistent interest in the work with glass because it is possible to create a new and different vision in that medium.
“…Glass is the most imaginative material that man has ever created. The presence of glass in a human space conditions not only the space itself but also an as the user. Glass is for me a pretext for expressing a different spatial and emotional perception of the world. A perception made unique by the optical means offered by this material, as well as by the new possibilities for using it in space… in glass, there’s the authenticity of the material, the discovery that it has uncommon optical and material properties, such as malleability. Glass by itself is a sufficient source of inspiration.”
The sculpture “Vane” made in 2009 is an optical glass with an aperture in the center that gives an undistorted view of the landscape. A new visual perspective is given and what is seen is a collage space of reality.
In 1960 the phrase “Cyborg” was coined in a story called “Cyborgs and Space” and was used to describe a human being augmented with technological attachments which I find very interesting to put in relation with Cigler’s Head Jewelry. Manfred Clynes, being the inventor of the word cyborg, considered it as more human which is a contradiction to how it is generally perceived as something inhuman. But there is something interesting towards understanding or maybe even accepting a direct interaction between organisms and technology in order to enlarge the human experience.
You can question the definition of a cyborg and maybe this is also what Clynes is already pointing out; are all humans cyborgs? We do include both organic and inorganic subsystems. Inorganic systems being for instance prosthetic limbs or vaccinations that program the immune system in our bodies. At least it could be argued that we are living a cyborgian existence. A cyborg society has developed where the connection between organic and machine systems is extremely complex and inescapable.
A more direct example of a cyborg, or maybe as direct as most people would understand the definition of a cyborg, is Neil Harbisson. He is even considered to be the world’s first cyborg with an antenna attached to the back of his skull dangling over his forehead very similar to the shape of the head jewelry. Harbisson sees in grayscale but the antenna allows him to hear the color spectrum, even the colors that are beyond the range of human sight.
He considers his decision of becoming a cyborg as an artistic statement: “I’m treating my own body and brain as a sculpture”. He is working with human perception using his own body as medium whereas Cigler uses glass to create different perceptions. Moreover, Cigler viewed jewelry as landscape for the human body as a means of connecting the body with its environment. Harbisson is literary connected with his surroundings by having the antenna which he considers just as much a part of him as any other organ or body part. Aesthetically the two objects, Head Jewelry and Eyeborg (what Harbisson calls his antenna), look very alike with their minimalistic characteristic but also their function has a lot in common if not considering the advanced technological aspect of the Eyeborg. What is interesting is how much an object can become a part of a human being and if it is really possible to not consider it as an object but as an organ. This also leads back to an acceptance of this cyborgian society that is already a reality. If a person got used to wearing the head-jewelry and seeing the surroundings through it, that is, having extra angles and the capability of observing secretly would this jewelry then also be thought of as a body part?
Simply start scrolling from “A” until I find something that “pops”. Suddenly I come to this post, which makes me stay and actually read everything. I like when the science and academic world comes in together with design and art. Makes it interesting, and you learn new things and get a new insight. When you refer to natural things it is something everyone can relate to, and it makes you realize how present nature always is.
Ants are fascinating creatures, which are used in design and art too. The way the post is written is good and easy read, you get introduced in the subject immediately. These kind of posts that refer to other “worlds” and facts makes me interested in researching new subjects and other media. When a text makes you think and reflect, it is a good text and it reminds you too keep your eyes open to different subjects and how they can relate. Personal opinions together with facts is a good combination.
If you search for words regarding science and nature in art context, some things and facts might surprise you, as did post gave me new insights. Even if it’s nice to read and discover new artists through the blog, there is something very interesting about posts that concern other things that are a bit far from what you usually come across.
Therefore I suggest you not to just check the topics, but actually choose something a bit more random, or something that is far from your interest, as it could invoke something new in you. This blog offers many interesting topics, which are all worth to be explored. This post offers me a new perspective and curiosity to read further about the topic.
If you do as I did and don’t search for too specific subjects or are too picky and actually continue reading, you might get surprised of how many new insights one single post might give you.
the CMYK colour model is short for cyan-magenta-yellow-key (black) and refers to all colours as mixtures of these four process colours. so, within this model, a colour would be described through the quotient of cyan, magenta, yellow and black that can be found in the mixture.
the CMYK colour model is predominantly used in the printing process and is often referred to as four-colour printing (which corresponds to the four inks used). in order to fully understand it, it is vital that we examine another colour model named RGB (red, green, blue) that is used in display devices such as computer monitors. so, whatever you see on a screen is in RGB. however, these colours can only be viewed with the aid of natural or produced light – making it impossible for documents to be printed as exact copies of what can be seen on a screen. this is why these documents must have their colours translated into CMYK prior to sending it to the printer.
all the heavily paraphrased information above seems to make sense on a superficial level, but in fact i find it all extremely perplexing and difficult to grasp. unfortunately i never learned the complex language of science and since it is awfully strenuous to translate a language one doesn’t understand, here is the even-more-technical-side explained by someone who seems to know what they are talking about:
“When two RGB colors are mixed equally they produce the colors of the CMYK model, known as subtractive primaries. green and blue creates cyan (C), red and blue creates magenta (M), and red and green creates yellow (Y). black is added to the model because it cannot be created with the 3 subtractive primaries (when combined they create a dark brown). The K, or “key,” stands for black.” (taken from here)
upon my investigation, i found that the aspect of the CYMK colour model that i found most compelling was the simple fact that a countless amount of colours are but a mixture of four: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. this thought was inevitably on my mind for days proceeding my research.
the idea for a translation of the CYMK model came to me when i was listening to Billie holiday’s 1941 version of “am i blue?” over a cup of coffee. it started me off on a long trail of thought which went a little like this:
blue? blue?! how has blue come to mean a sad & melancholic mood or person?
although the colour blue is used to describe a specific feeling, colour can also be used to illustrate mood or atmosphere – for instance – in less direct ways. this is apparent in art, music, poetry, prose… but why do we associate certain moods or meanings with certain colours? and more even-more-generally: why do we often have the urge to illustrate colourless things through colour?
i am extremely fond of the randomness of this occurrence — the randomness of the colour blue (with all its different tones) being chosen to represent something that is beyond blue literally, as a colour, a sensory experience…
i had the idea of translating the CYMK colour system in a way that i made each colour (cyan, yellow, magenta and black) represent something different. and so i did. i decided that i was going to translate this system into a system that determined the “colour” of one’s day. first, i made a list of things that tend to have an effect on my day. then i selected the four that i felt have the most influence on the “mood” of my day. i proceeded to make them into questions (which can be answered on a scale of 1 to 10):
- how happy/satisfied are you with yourself today? (C) - how well rested do you feel? (M) - how good does today’s weather make you feel? (Y) - how similar is today to yesterday? (K)
each of these questions substitute C, M, Y, and K accordingly. and when answered as a numeral value (from 1 to 10), i have the percentages i need to make a colour with the aid of photoshop. the system i’ve created is therefore a colour-determining tool.
i decided that the colour i’d silkscreen would be the result of my answers to the questions the morning after i created the system. my answers were 5, 5, 3, 1 and made into percentages as shown below:
…and “the colour of my day” beside my silk-screened circle version:
i knew that to develop my project further i’d have to send this survey around and ask people to fill it out. therefore, i made an online survey using a survey-making-website (which can be accessed here):
this website organized the data which i later used to determine individual colours for each of the 40 people world-wide who answered my survey on the 12th of december, 2013. i mapped out all 40 colours to illustrate the colours of one day, according to the answers of 40 people:
a problem i encountered on two occasions was that if 10 (being absolutely) was the answer to the last question: how similar is today to yesterday? (K), then the colour would be entirely black. since the other quotients would be cancelled out, i didn’t want this to happen. so instead, i set the percentage as 95% rather than 100%. even though both appear to be black anyway, i like the idea that there are still undertones of colour. and although it did not stay completely ‘honest’ to my original system – at the time i thought it would be a good compromise.
after i was done with the poster shown above, i decided to design a survey of my own (which i would put online and use if i were any good at computing):
i think through this translated colour system, i managed to play on the randomness of colour representations, but also create a functional and fun system (which also has the potential of becoming interactive).
When we think of light and colors the first thing we think of is the RGB color model.
The RGB color model is an additive model based on red, green and blue colored lights. When added together in various ways, they can produce a wide range of colors. The name of this system comes from the initials of red, green and blue.
The RGB color system’s main purpose is to display images in electronic systems, such as televisions and computers, although it’s also been used in conventional photography.
This system is based off of the Young-Helmholtz theory of trichromatic color vision. This is a theory developed by Thomas Young and Herman Helmholtz in the early to mid 19th century.
Trichromacy is a condition in which one has 3 channels to convey color information. Humans are trichromats. Each channel has a different absorption spectra, thus showing the viewer a different color. Young came up with this theory in 1802. Herman von Helmholtz brought the theory further in 1850 by classifying each wave length under the colors blue, green and red.
James Clerk Maxwell elaborated on this by creating a color triangle in 1860. He is the founder of color photography. He proposed in 1855 to take 3 black and white photographs and run them through red, green and blue filters. Each filter was projected on a different projector, and when superimposed, the human eye percieved a colored reproduction of the scene.
The RGB system is also used for display screens, such as televisions or computers. Each pixel on the screen is built by driving three small and very close but still seperated RGB light sources. From a normal viewing distance the seperate colors are indistinguishable tricking the eye into seeing a solid color.
Here is a silkscreen print of a single colored circle made to represent the RGB color model. I chose to print the circle white because i felt that it would be the most accurate way to represent the entire system. The reason being, as you can see on the RGB color wheel, the combination of red, green and blue lights create a white light.
An other project I did was to create a projected piece based of the RGB system. I felt it would be interesting to base myself off the color wheel to create a less scientific but more abstract version of it.
These are the initial sketches I came up with:
I ended up choosing this one sketch for my final piece. Because this is a theory purely based off light, it does not work if only on paper. I needed to find a way to implicate this color wheel to something involving light. Therefor, I decided to scan and project this color wheel to a wall. By using a projector, the piece based of light and thus appropriate for this system.
How ever, i felt this was not enough. So with Photoshop, I divided the piece into three by separating it into channels: Red, Green and Blue. This way, i could go back to the origins of this model which is based on the addition of those three colors.
After transferring these images into jpeg’s, I placed them into the iMovie software and created a short one second film. When running this film using a Quicktime loop, I created a gif.
Finally, this gif is then projected on a wall, completing the piece :